Of course they aren't always this quiet and it does not always look this calm in my classroom. Clearly, this was a moment that I needed to celebrate. I needed to video this amazing group of students who were engaged, focused and comfortable in their classroom.
This is independent writing time. The students are working on their personal memoirs. What you don't see are the four students sitting in the hallway on pillows, just outside the classroom door, using speech-to-text. What you didn't hear was my "spiel", prompting and reminders, my questions and guidance. Every moment since September has been full of discussions about finding the best "learning spot" for each student within our shared space.
My flexible seating journey started three years ago. That year, I started the journey by having a desk for each student, but I provided as many flexible options within the room as possible. Because I had a small class, this was achievable, however the next year my class size grew, and my classroom did not! With a larger class, I was forced to make a decision. Either I needed to remove my flexible options or remove some desks. I chose to remove the desks. I went to having twelve desks, for twenty-eight (eventually twenty-nine) students.
In order to keep my sanity, each student in my class had a "starting spot". This allowed me to take attendance and stay sane!
This year, I switched grades, switched classrooms and jumped full force into flexible seating. I have three remaining desks as options in my classroom. Students store their supplies, duotangs and books in individual cubbies. Attendance is done with a picture sign in & a head count double check. The pictures also serve as support for supply teachers (as there is not a seating plan). I must tell you, flexible seating takes work, but it is worth it.
Here are the benefits to flexible seating I have noticed so far:
- students have built in body breaks
- they learn to self-regulate by selecting good spots to learn (some quicker than others!)
- we have more room
- we can easily transform our learning space to suit our needs in a moments notice
- I never have students ask for a seating change
- students take ownership over the shared space and it fosters a sense of community, simply put, "we share everything".
Flexible seating takes time, commitment, organization, patience and will, but I am so happy that I made the switch, for my students and for myself.
If you look back through my blog history, you will notice I am prone to change. Once I am established in a role, I tend to start looking around for my next challenge. Now keep in mind, I am not as brave as that sounds. I take calculated risks and accept challenges, in which I know I will have support and encouragement.
For example, next year I will be teaching a grade 5/6 class. I have taught grade 6 before, but never a 5/6, so this is exciting! Even more exciting is the opportunity to team teach with a coworker and friend who I admire and who shares the same educational beliefs. I know that this will be fun year for both of us and our students.
In my school I have been the Self-Contained Developmental Disabilities Classroom teacher, the Grade 8 teacher, one of the Special Education Resource Teachers, the Teacher-Librarian, a planning time teacher, and a Grade 7 teacher. As much as I move grades or roles, I do this in a school where I am supported. I have been fortunate to have worked for a series of administrators who listen and provide opportunities to change my practice. My school community and colleagues are my extended family. A past principal often reminded us that during the school year we spend more time with each other than we do with our own families.
All of that being said, my question is what change are you making this year? What is something new you will try? I have written before about the changing nature of education. Clearly this is important, as the world is constantly changing. By using the same tools, resources & methods to teach, we are not preparing our students. As I look around online, I can see that my fellow teachers are preparing for this school year. They are seeking out new challenges and opportunities to better their program and engage their students.
What is your chosen challenge this school year?
My students were invited by Jen Apgar @JenApgar & Sean Hamiton @SHamilton1UGDSB to share during the Be a Game Changer 2.0 Global Citizenship discussion this evening. I invited all of my 28 students and was thrilled that 13 were able to meet me at our school to share in this important discussion. It was a whirlwind of excitement before we went "on air". Although the students are well versed in Hangouts & online discussion, this evening produced a lot of nerves, excitement and pride in their accomplishments.
The longer I am an educator, the more value I see in using technology to transform learning. I see the impact that making connections outside our school walls has on my students. They are engaged and passionate about learning.
Before they shared this evening, I asked the students to brainstorm and compile some answers to questions that Sean & Jen had prompted them with. The questions linked to their experiences with the #CDNcraft project and other activities that we have done throughout this school year. They were asked to share about their experiences, but also about how they value this type of learning and if they would encourage other students and educators to connect. Their answers were too long to share during the Hangout this evening, but we have compiled them and shared them in this document.
The document contains more depth than what they were able to share in the Hangout. I found their answers encouraging and enlightening. I was thrilled to see that they are getting it! They understand why we are sharing and connecting online.
Looking at their words, I could see their growth. They acknowledge where they were and how far they have come. They identify the things that work for them and the things that don't. They appreciate the risks I take as a teacher and acknowledge that there are moments of success and struggles.
Teaching in a connected classroom is far more like co-learning. I feel like a partner in the journey my students are taking daily and they too see that we are working together. I encourage all teachers to make an attempt. Try one activity; one link to outside your four walls. Feel free to connect with me or my class. Our door is always open. I know the journey. I am still on the journey. This journey doesn't end. Education is constantly evolving, as it should, to meet the changing needs of learners.
I am so proud of the sharing my students did in the Hangout this evening. These class representatives shared an amazing summary of the thoughts of all their peers. Some of my most self-conscious learners took risks and shared this evening. I am truly proud of them all.
Changing your practice and attempting new things is not easy, but it sure is fun.
As my students say, "just give it a try".
A celebration with treats after a job well done!
I can't believe that this is my 5th year attending the #GAFESUMMIT in Kitchener!
I remember how I felt during my first year at the summit. I was so overwhelmed. I could hardly absorb any of the information that was being shared. I felt out of the loop...behind on the times & so excited about the ideas spinning around in my head.
Fast forward to year 5 & I am relaxed, having fun...behind on the times & so excited about the ideas spinning around in my head.
The moral of the story is that technology changes so fast, you are always behind on the times. You never know everything. It can be both disconcerting and comforting. I suppose it is stressful knowing that you are not aware of the latest tricks and techniques, however I don't always feel that way. I find comfort in the fact that technology is constantly changing. It is a continuum of growth that never ends. It is an evolution.
To be honest, if there was nothing to learn, I would be bored. Conferences like this help me feel refreshed as an educator. I am excited to refine my practice, better meet student needs and find ways to make learning fun & memorable.
So here's to being behind...out of the loop & always running to catch up. It make's you feel alive doesn't it?! :)
In honour of the 5th Anniversary, here is a walk down memory lane. My notes from the each of the Summits:
Compiled Tools for Learning List
Ontario #GAFESUMMIT Year 1 - 2013
Ontario #GAFESUMMIT Year 2 - 2014 Day 1 & Day 2
(Apparently I was tricky this year)
Ontario #GAFESUMMIT Year 3 - 2015
Ontario #GAFESUMMIT Year 4 - 2016
Ontario #GAFESUMMIT Year 5 - 2017
FOLLOW ALONG or COLLABORATE on these notes with me throughout the conference.
I also try to tweet throughout the conference, sharing links & awesome ideas from presenters.
Sue Vaz & I "caught in the act," loading up on snacks... as we take on the #edtechteam challenge to use our new pouches in a creative way. Thanks for being my partner in crime for this summit Sue!
Loving the new addition to google read & write:
An amazing new feature on Google Read & Write will record students reading a text that you provide to them on the computer & then send the recording of the student reading to you on your Google Classroom. Awesome way to assess students in fluency. Be sure to check this new feature out!
mystery google hangouts!
View the complete Mystery Google Hangout document here.
Thanks to all of the teachers and classes who helped us start our hangouts! Now we would like to pay it forward and help other classes get started.
Send me a message if you would like to connect with my Grade 7 class online! They are loving the Mystery Google Hangouts!
It is that busy time of year again when I am presenting and sharing with other staff, but also off to learn from other educators from near & far. This year's focus...and an ongoing focus for me, DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP. This past week I shared with the teacher's in my school board in three separate presentations. Each was geared to a different division. Feel free to check them out here:
Primary Digital Citizenship
Junior Digital Citizenship
Intermediate Digital Citizenship
At the Google Summit in Kitchener on April 9th, I will be presenting with Julie Balen about Digital Citizenship in Ontario. If you are at the Summit, be sure to check the schedule for updates, but as of now we are presenting at 10am in Rm.201. I hope to see you there!
Digital Citizenship in Ontario
Today was we day in Ottawa...my students were excited to watch the live stream...
We knew Prime Minister Trudeau would be speaking in the afternoon. Then we RECEIVED an invitation...
We thought...why not? So we asked...
Then we watched...
It was exciting, but the kids wanted to know why he didn't answer our question.
And that is why I love twitter in my classroom.
Every year I go to the Bring IT Together conference. I started five years ago when it was still the ECOO conference in Richmond Hill. I think this year, more than any other, I realized how important it is for all educators in Ontario to attend this conference.
Obviously I have a certain comfort level with technology (hence the blog), but I don’t think that technology is at the heart of this conference.
Yes, technology is the glue that binds the conference together. It is the conduit that is used to share our knowledge and share, create and engage with our students, however, it is not about the technology.
I think in many ways, the perceived focus on technology is the thing that keeps some of my counterparts away. In many ways, they fear the tool more than the pedagogy.
From now on, when I advertise the conference to my peers I will not sell them on the tools, but instead I will talk about the inspiration, the passion and the sources.
What I truly mean is that the best sales pitch I could give for this conference is to talk about the amazing people I connect with every year.
I will talk about how Sandra McLarnon (@SandraMcLarnon) was literally shouting with joy, while holding her dogeared, highlighted copy of Invent to Learn, as Sylvia Martinez (@smartinez) was speaking about the Maker Movement.
I will share how Alison Bullock’s (@aliringbull) teary eyed description of her student’s engagement in her novel study almost brought me to tears.
I will describe the pride Sandra Chow (@watnunu) has in her students, her school and the amazing work they are doing with mathematics and technology.
I will show the book I received from Alanna King (@banana29), who organized a fantastic #bit15 book club and brought books to share and inspire others.
You see, technology conferences are not simply about the technology. They are about the people, the sharing and the passion. I leave each year feeling inspired and that is how I will advertise this conference to Ontario Educators.
Thank you all for an amazing #BIT15.
WELCOME to my blog!
Please follow along on my journey. I am an Ontario elementary school teacher who loves to learn new things! I love to share, collaborate and learn from others, so please keep in touch!